Failure to Adapt

Match report by ALAN ESSEX

Dagenham & Redbridge 3 Pools 1 (National League)
Saturday 14 September 2019
Victoria Road

In true Monty Python fashion I asked a friend who lives in the area, “So what has Dagenham ever given us then?”

"Well, there’s Bobby Moore."

"Ok, I replied, I’ll give you that."

"And there’s Alf Ramsey, Terry Venables."

“Okay, apart from famous footballers and England managers, what has Dagenham ever given us?”

"Well, there’s Martin Gore of Depeche Mode," he continued, "and Sandie Shaw, Dudley Moore, Keith West (from the band Tomorrow, famous for ‘Excerpt from a Teenage Opera’), and of course Gee Vaucher from the anarcho-punk band that everyone loves – Crass. And of course, Billy Bragg and Tim Gane (McCarthy / Stereolab) come from neighbouring Barking."

So, I concluded, all in all a proper collection of political left-leaning revolutionaries.

In last season’s report I compiled the origins of Dagenham and Redbridge. Briefly this entailed how the club were formed from the amalgamation of clubs Redbridge Forest and Dagenham, Redbridge Forest themselves being the result of mergers between Ilford, Leytonstone and Walthamstow Avenue, Not so much a history as a geography of east London clubs. Grounds all now long gone, sold to developers on the back of plans for new stadiums that never resulted. Monied men taking from communities for their own greed – this left-wing politics is catching!

To give some political balance, Barking and Dagenham (Bark & Dag?) was one of only 5 out of 33 London boroughs that voted to leave the EU. In the local elections of 2006, the BNP were the second largest party with 12 seats. However, the Labour party have held the area (Dagenham & Rainham ...Dag & Rain?) since at least 1945. A strong working-class area, despite being run down, is dominated by the Ford Motor Company. Car production ceased at the Dagenham plant in 2002. It now assembles engines, unfortunately mostly diesels, which are now seen as polluting and not environmentally friendly. At its peak it employed around 40,000 people, now it’s about 2,000.

So, to the football. This was the first time I had seen the new look Pools. I have to say I liked the new away kit, being black with lime green band and trimmings. Pools were unchanged from the televised line up against Woking. Dag & Red were also unchanged from both their victory over Maidenhead United and the previous draw with Bromley. With both clubs level on 15 points and both on good unbeaten runs there was the expectation of a good game.

The first 15 minutes or so had both teams trying to build moves that broke down when they got anywhere near goal. Toure and Mafuta both looked impressive and I wondered why they were playing at this level. Killip came out and cleanly caught a high cross but then also fumbled one, fortunately cleared. Toure had the first clear shot of the afternoon which  was easily saved by Justham the Dag & Red keeper.

Following increasing pressure the home side took the lead in the 24th minute after a good passing move involving 3 Dag & Red players around the penalty box with Quigley having an easy shot past Killip. The Pools defence looked particularly vulnerable at this point and had several opportunities to cut out the danger, but then it always looks so much easier from the stands. Dag & Red nearly got a second shortly afterwards but Killip got down well to turn a shot from Balanta around the post for a corner. From this a header hit the crossbar and went over. It was mostly all Dag & Red by now with Pools passing the ball amongst the back 3 but not getting forward much, with moves either breaking down in midfield or high balls being easily dealt with by the opposition's defence.
"the central defence looked weak on today's showing with Kerr being the best of the three - and he’s now injured."

The mood was lightened for me by hearing Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting’ over the PA during the half time break – always a favourite of mine, even The Utah Saints' remix version.

I was expecting a reaction following the break but it continued in much the same vein. The Dag & Red midfielder Dobson got past Killip with the defence all beaten only to fire into the side netting from a difficult angle. After 10 minutes of the second half Balanta beat Killip in a scene reminiscent of Adam Boyd beating Billy Turley (Rushden and Diamonds) to slot the ball into an empty net. The defence were being overrun with ease, Kitching and Kioso were playing wide as wingbacks with Kerr, Raynes and Cunningham as the central defenders. I don’t know if this is the formation they’ve been playing previously but it clearly wasn’t working today.

In the 75th minute Kerr had to be helped from the pitch following a hefty challenge and was replaced by Hawkes. Pools reverted to 2 central defenders with Hawkes going into midfield. 5 minutes later Pools attacked and with several opportunities seeing to be wasted, Kabamba played the ball to Donaldson who saw his goal-bound shot deflected past Justham. This gave Pools hope but only for 2 minutes as Dag & Red's Graham found Balanta; his header bounced off the bar and Quigley was unopposed in scoring his second of the afternoon.

A frustrating afternoon for Pools. The team never got going against a side that did the easy things well – you know, like defending, passing and scoring goals. None of the Dag & Red side stood out but they all did their jobs efficiently and deserved to win – they’re now in a play-off place.

For Pools I thought Mafuta was easily the best player on show, closely followed by Toure, whose trickery was probably too much for his own colleagues. Kabamba did well when he came on. Killip made several good stops and has good distribution. Noble, Donaldson and Kioso all showed brief glimpses of skill and kept trying. On the downside the central defence looked weak on today's showing with Kerr being the best of the three - and he’s now injured.

The team need to suss out the opposition much sooner and be able to adapt its style accordingly and not just stick to a strict pre-written script. Or is that being too revolutionary? Well I did say that this left-wing stuff was catching - must be something in the water!

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